42nd Street concludes, Jerry Awards for Little Shop of Horrors

This spring, Shorewood Drama performed 42nd Street, Mark Bramble and Michael Stewart’s flashy Broadway musical. With the show winning Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography, the theater department took on a challenging production.

42nd Street focuses on young Peggy Sawyer’s rise to fame after esteemed Broadway actress Dorothy Brock breaks her ankle rehearsing Pretty Lady, an up-and-coming musical. Initially joining as a member of the chorus, Sawyer is asked to fill Brock’s lead role, truly testing her showmanship.

Junior Ben Skwierawski played Billy Lawlor, the charming, charismatic lead of Pretty Lady. Portraying a 1930s showman was new to Skwierawski, though he was eager to try it.

“Billy is a very confident guy,” Skwierawski said. “You really had to have 1930s swagger and be a little cocky, and that was one of the things that really stood out for me.” 

He was excited to do a musical centered primarily on singing and dancing, as it is what initially drew him to Shorewood Drama in fifth grade.

“I really wanted to dance because I had yet to dance this year…[42nd Street] is different from a lot of theater shows I’ve done and mainly focuses on the singing and dancing and less on the story,” Skwierawski said.

The show honed in many new aspects, such as a full ensemble present at everyday rehearsals, while in other productions only lead parts were required to be present much of the time. Roles were also open to incoming freshmen along with more underclassmen, serving as a bonding experience for everyone involved.

Frances Wagner, the senior who played Dorothy Brock, enjoyed the chance to get to know a wide variety of people within Shorewood Drama. 

“[I loved] the opportunity to build community,” Wagner said. “We bonded a lot as the cast, [doing more work outside of drama] and rehearsing.” 

Natalie Hanaway, the senior portraying Peggy Sawyer, believes her experience with 42nd Street has brought her high school acting career full circle.

“[It was exciting] getting to be the people who we once looked up to, and create the same experience that we had when we were underclassmen,” Hanaway said.

The cast pursued the challenging tap and dance choreography with enthusiasm, rehearsing intensively for weeks beforehand. Additionally, practicing on their own was crucial, with the full cast participating in tap classes alongside everyday rehearsals. 

“It was definitely the hardest show ever worked on and I think that we would all agree with that,” Hanaway said. “But we pulled it off; we were scared for a bit there, but it worked out well in the end.”

In winter, Shorewood presented Little Shop of Horrors, drawing Jerry Award representatives to the show. Jerry Awards recognize excellence in high school musical theater, and two high school performers are later selected to represent the program in New York City’s “Jimmy Award” competition. This year was the first year since 2019 that Drama Director Adam Sheaffer signed the cast up to contest for the awards. 

“[Being nominated] was very validating for all the hard work that we had done,” Wagner said.

This year, Little Shop of Horrors was nominated for 14 awards. Examples of Shorewood’s nomination categories were Outstanding Musical, Ensemble, Lead Performance, Orchestra, Costume Design, Scenic Design, and many more.

“I was kind of unaware of what Jerrys were until we were performing Little Shop of Horrors and people were telling us that they were critics in the audience,” said Rose Callahan, junior. “I just hadn’t thought of that possibility,” 

Both Hanaway and Skwierawski were nominated for Outstanding Lead Performance, with Wagner and Callahan for Outstanding Supportive Performance. 

“[I] was excited,” Skwierawski said. “It was a new thing for me because we haven’t done Jerrys for a while. It was exciting and thrilling that people liked my performance.”

Of the many nominations, Shorewood’s Little Shop of Horrors was awarded Outstanding Orchestra, Musical Direction, Scenic Design, and Lighting Design.